Government and gambling don’t mix

Controversies have been raging across Canada about the introduction of more gambling casinos, most notably in Kitchener.

Despite the fact that every public opinion poll and town meeting shows it is obvious that the public overwhelmingly is opposed to the introduction of casinos in their areas, sponsors persist, abetted by a compliant government.

The public seems aware of the insidious effects of gambling; we in Canada generally realize that.

Governments are addicted to the revenues provided by gambling, all the while ignoring the moral and social consequences.

The counter arguments are that steps have been taken to help those addicted to gambling, that the revenues are partly used for worthwhile projects and that the revenues forsaken would have to be made up by higher taxation.

Yet, dependency grows space, and higher taxes would be fairer than using gambling revenues, which primarily are derived from lower income individuals.

Many years ago in New York City the dockets of the sitting grand juries were filled with indictments against the prohibited gambling slips that were being sold, principally to lower income individuals.

The Irish Sweepstakes, a major horse racing event, attracted gamblers, even though selling tickets for that was illegal.

Still, nowadays Canada has the dubious distinction of being among the highest per capita gambling places in the world, just behind Australia, New Zealand and Norway.

From lotteries, gambling casinos, and electronic “gaming” as it is evasively called, $14 billion is generated in revenues to provincial treasuries in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.

According to an article in Maclean’s, the Alberta government derives 4.2 per cent of its total revenues from gambling, equal to about half of the royalties from oil sands.

In British Columbia the government generates more revenues from gambling than it spends on economic development.

The above-mentioned report declared that Canada has 70 casinos, 10,000 lottery ticket retailers, but the gambling lobbyist are seeking to extend their grasp. Canada is blanketed with campaigns on television to entice more of the public.

Seats at slot machines are filled with gamblers who reportedly wear diapers so that they will not have to leave their seats to go to a washroom. The casinos are open 24 hours a day, and television sets show horse races upon which one can wager.

About half of pathological gamblers are alcoholic or drug addicts. The moral and social cost of what the government calls “gaming” are disregarded.

Surely governments should have the courage to mount an educational campaign, showing that gambling is a sucker’s game that adversely affects us all.

It is about time that our governments act properly in the public’s best interest over the long term.  



Bruce Whitestone